Wattpad and other reading sites.

by Gean

Question: Do you think posting stories in reading sites like Wattpad is a good way for aspiring writers? I want my work to be published traditionally but somehow I'm tempted to post it online.

Answer: You have to think carefully about why you are writing and what you expect Wattpad or similar sites to do for you.

If your aim is to have a writing career, which means earning enough money to live off your writing, then you need to be clear about the relationship between you, the readers, and the publisher (the site owner). In particular, who pays and who gets paid? Whose time and effort are rewarded with cash? (You want it to be you.)

If someone makes money publishing your work (either Wattpad or a traditional publisher) then you should also be getting paid. Otherwise, you're being a chump and lowering the bar for other writers.

That said, you can use a site like Wattpad to make money from your writing. For instance...

Scenario 1:

You have a published book (either traditional or self-published) that pays you each time someone buys it.

You use Wattpad as a tool to market your book.

For instance, you start posting a sample chapter each Friday. At the end of each chapter, insert a blurb telling the reader where they can buy the book.

With luck, a lot of readers get hooked on the story.

At a certain point, you may stop posting chapters, so that everyone who wants to find out how the book ends must buy it.

Scenario 2:

Maybe your book isn't available to buy, but you insert advertisements into each chapter you post. You get a little money each time a reader clicks on an ad.

This is a weaker strategy, because it takes a huge volume of readers to generate enough clicks for you to make a significant amount of income.

In fact, if you have enough readers to make a decent income from advertising, you could probably make even more money self-publishing the book or approaching a traditional publisher and switching to the first scenario.

Scenario 3:

You publish chapters from your "work-in-progress" on Wattpad as a way to either build a future audience for the book or perhaps advertise a crowd-funding campaign so you can self-publish.

This might work. But one challenge with this strategy is that you won't be publishing your best work. The chapters will not have gone through the typical multi-draft revision and editing process to polish them.

So maybe you will attract some readers who will buy your book or finance your crowd-funding, but not nearly as many as you would get by publishing the final draft.

Worst-case scenario is that
you end up turning readers away because your story has obvious flaws or poor writing, so you don't build a readership big enough to impress a publisher.

(I suspect that posting chapters from a work-in-progress is a better strategy for established writers who do it on their own websites as a way to keep in touch with readers.)

Scenario 3:

You post short stories on Wattpad as a way to build a readership/platform that will convince a publisher to buy your book.

This is also a weak strategy because you can put a lot of time effort into writing and posting short stories and never see a cent from them. Meanwhile, you're neglecting your book.

Again, anything you publish -- whether chapters or short stories, whether for free or for sale -- must represent your BEST WORK. You should never post mediocre stories on Wattpad or anywhere else because you will be establishing the wrong kind of reputation.

So, assuming you're going to publish your best work, you should get paid for it.

If you write short stories, why not try to sell them to literary magazines, anthologies, or other paying venues instead of giving them away on free sites? There are plenty of markets for stories in every genre. Check out Writer's Market (either the book or the website), which lists thousands of these.

Selling short stories to journals not only builds your readership, it also puts more money in your hand and establishes you as a professional writer. A short story published in a magazine or journal may even win a major award, which will help sell your upcoming book to a publisher and increase your readership even more.

Again: beware of non-paying venues unless you have a definite way to generate money using them.

Scenario 4:

You write fan fiction, which can't be sold anyway, so free sites like Wattpad are your only option to find readers.

In rare cases, people who do this build a large readership and then go on to sell original novels to traditional publishers.

However, the key word is "rare." Success with this route is like winning a lottery. You can put a lot of time and energy into doing this and never make a dime.

As such, I think this route only makes sense for people who just write for fun and have no need or desire to make money from their writing. If it does lead to a professional writing career -- great. If not, it doesn't matter because they didn't have any expectations.

If anyone has thoughts on this, or experience making money on Wattpad, please feel free to post comments below. But that's my take for now.

Best of luck.

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